Category Archives: Energy News

How does Nuclear energy in the UK work ? [ANSWERED]

Why nuclear power?

In light of high global gas prices, we need to ensure Britain’s future energy supply is bolstered by reliable, affordable, low carbon power that is generated in this country.

New nuclear is not only an important part of our plans to ensure greater energy independence, but to create high-quality jobs and drive economic growth.

Large-scale nuclear is a very low-carbon technology, which provides the reliable baseload power we need at scale from a very small land area; Hinkley Point C, for example, will power around 6 million homes from a just a quarter of a square mile.

Is nuclear power safe?

Yes. As confirmed by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, nuclear power plants ‘are among the safest and most secure facilities in the world,’ and nuclear power is one of the safest forms of energy generation.

For context, the annual radiation dose to an adult living beside a new nuclear plant is much less than taking one trans-Atlantic flight or eating 100g of Brazil nuts – neither of which have heavy radiation.

In the UK, we have a well-respected regulatory system which reflects international best practice, and an industry which places an extremely high value on safety, achieving world-leading health and safety standards every time it is examined.

Nuclear power has operated in the UK for decades without incident, and all UK nuclear operators are answerable to robust and independent regulators – the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the appropriate environmental regulator. If the ONR judged that any nuclear installation was not safe or secure it would not be allowed to operate.

How does nuclear power work?

Traditional nuclear power plants use heat produced during nuclear fission to produce steam. The steam is used to spin large turbines that generate electricity. Nuclear power plants heat water.

In nuclear fission, atoms are split apart to form smaller atoms, releasing energy. Fission takes place inside the reactor of a nuclear power plant. At the centre of the reactor is the core, which contains uranium fuel split into ceramic pellets.

Each ceramic pellet produces about the same amount of energy as 150 gallons of oil. These energy-rich pellets are stacked end-to-end in 12-foot metal fuel rods. A bundle of fuel rods, some with hundreds of rods, is called a fuel assembly. A reactor core contains many fuel assemblies.

Both the Committee on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency have highlighted the role for new nuclear electricity generating capacity, in partnership with renewables, as a key element of achieving net zero. A recent report by the UN Economic Commission for Europe was clear that “the world’s climate objectives will not be met if nuclear technologies are excluded” from future decarbonisation.

What about nuclear waste disposal?

The government is committed to using Geological Disposal Facilities (GDF) to dispose of nuclear waste.

GDF is internationally recognised as the best long-term solution for dealing with radioactive waste.

We need a sustainable solution for the radioactive waste that has already accumulated over many decades. It’s currently stored safely in facilities around the UK, but this isn’t a long term solution and we will be moving towards geological disposal for new and existing waste.

Local engagement events are underway for local people to find out more about a GDF and what it would mean for the community that hosts it.

A GDF is a multi-billion-pound infrastructure investment and will provide skilled jobs and benefits to the community that hosts it for more than 100 years. It is also likely to involve major investments in local transport facilities and other infrastructure.

What is the government currently doing to support nuclear power?

The strategy will see a significant acceleration of nuclear, with an ambition of up to 24GW by 2050 to come from this safe, clean, and reliable source of power. This would represent up to around 25% of our projected electricity demand. Subject to technology readiness from industry, Small Modular Reactors will form a key part of the nuclear project pipeline.

A new government body, Great British Nuclear, will be set up immediately to bring forward new projects, backed by substantial funding, and we will launch the £120 million Future Nuclear Enabling Fund this month. We will work to progress a series of projects as soon as possible this decade, including Wylfa site in Anglesey. This could mean delivering up to 8 reactors, equivalent to one reactor a year instead of one a decade, accelerating nuclear in Britain.

We are committed to building the first new nuclear power station in a generation at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, which will provide 3.2 GW of secure, low carbon electricity for around 60 years to power around 6 million homes and provide 25,000 job opportunities.

EDF are the lead investor building Hinkley Point C. They are targeting the first reactor coming online in June 2026. The developer is fully funding the project.

We have been in constructive negotiations on the Sizewell C project in Suffolk since January 2021, as the most advanced potential project in the UK. If approved Sizewell C would be a replica of Hinkley Point C, providing electricity for 6 million homes, and creating thousands of high value jobs nationwide.

In January we provided £100 million of funding for the Sizewell C developer to invest in the project to help bring it to maturity, attract investors, and advance to the next phase in negotiations.

As set out in the 2021 Spending Review, up to £1.7 billion of funding is available to support approval of at least one new nuclear power plant this Parliament.

The Nuclear Energy (Financing) Act received Royal Assent last week. The Act will enable use of the Regulated Asset Base funding model for new nuclear projects, which will unblock obstacles to developing these projects and cut the cost of financing them.

The Advanced Nuclear Fund  includes up to £210 million announced in November 2021 for Rolls-Royce to develop the design for one of the world’s first Small Modular Reactors. This could be deployed in the UK in the early 2030s to turbocharge UK nuclear capacity.

We are also establishing a new Future Nuclear Enabling Fund of up to £120 million to provide targeted support for new nuclear and make it easier for new companies to enter the market.  

What are Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)?

Small Modular Reactors are smaller versions of conventional water-cooled nuclear reactors. Designs come in different sizes but have power output roughly a fifth to a third of the larger and more traditional reactors at Hinkley Point C.

There are a wide range of new reactor technologies under development around the world. Many designs have the potential for a range of applications beyond low-carbon electricity generation, including production of hydrogen, direct heat for industrial or domestic use or nuclear waste management.

The UK government believes that SMRs could play an important role alongside large nuclear as a low-carbon energy source to support a secure, affordable decarbonised energy system. They can be easily manufactured away from the sites where they are used and deployed where needed and could be a transformative technology for the UK’s industrial heartlands.

What are Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs)?

AMRs are the next generation of nuclear power. These reactors use novel and innovative fuels, coolants, and technologies to generate extreme heat for industrial applications as well as for electricity to power people’s homes.

They take advantage of the same modular-building principles as SMRs, making them more flexible to deploy.

We have committed up to £385 million in the Advanced Nuclear Fund (ANF) to support SMRs and AMR development. This includes up to £210 million awarded as a grant to Rolls-Royce SMR to develop their SMR design, which will be matched by industry.

This fund will be part of the measures the government will take to inform investment decisions during the next Parliament on further nuclear projects.

The ANF also includes funding for progressing plans for an ambitious Advanced Modular Research, Development & Demonstration (RD&D) programme which aims to enable an AMR demonstration by the early 2030s, at the latest. We recently announced that High Temperature Gas Reactors (HTGRs) will be the technology focus for this programme.

How long does it take for a nuclear plant to come online?

The timeframe for new nuclear projects coming online varies considerably depending on a range of factors.

Large-scale nuclear projects do have long-construction periods, but Small Modular Reactors for example could be deployable during the early 2030s, with innovation in manufacturing and construction having the potential to bring down build time further.

What’s happening to the older nuclear power stations?

EDF, which operates all of the UK’s Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors (AGRs) as well as Sizewell B, have extended the lifetime of many of the power stations built in the 1970s and ‘80s in the UK.

However, when nuclear stations reach the end of their generating capability, they move into the next phase of their lives which is to remove the fuel and to prepare for decommissioning.

This process is handled by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), a government agency with high-level technical expertise in handling this process in a safe and secure manner.

There are currently 6 generating stations across England and Scotland operated by EDF Energy. Sizewell B, the UK’s only Pressurised Water Reactor, is expected to continue generation past 2028.

The AGR stations at Torness, Hinkley Point B, Heysham 1, Heysham 2 and Hartlepool will end generation between 2022 and 2028.

Two other AGR stations, Dungeness B and Hunterston B, recently ended generation to move into the final defueling phase and then decommissioning.

In terms of future use for these sites, the NDA have a clear mission to safely decommission them, freeing up land for future uses.

The NDA welcomes engagement from all stakeholders with a potential future use of land and have a history of engagement and land transfer across their portfolio.

Sungrow Supplies Statera’s 362 MW/391 MWh Energy Storage Project in the UK

Sungrow, the global leading inverter solution supplier for renewables, announced that the Company partners with Statera Energy, a market leader in the provision of flexibility to the UK grid, to supply a 362 MW/391 MWh energy storage project in the UK. The first phase of the project was grid-connected in Q1, 2022, while the rest will be brought online this year as well.

The independent power producer Statera Energy will adopt Sungrow’s ST3727kWh-3450UD-MV high-efficiency turnkey energy storage system solution with enhanced safety to develop subsidy-free energy storage capable of discharging power at times of peak demand or under-production in multiple suburbs across the UK. More importantly, the project will help the UK meet its Capacity Market objective of achieving long-term security of supply and contribute to the offsetting of the risk of its increasing reliance on wind generation by strengthening the National Grid’s Dynamic Containment frequency response service.

With UK’s electricity system currently experiencing lower inertia and larger, more numerous losses than ever before. Faster acting frequency response products are needed because system frequency is moving away from 50 Hz more rapidly as a consequence of imbalances.

On January 27 of 2021, UK electricity system operator National Grid began allowing the stacking of revenues in parts of the Balancing Mechanism which has been of significant importance to battery asset owners. The National Grid expects the additional flexibility and revenue stacking to increase the efficiency of battery assets delivering the service, and increase competition which would, in turn, reduce costs to the consumer.

We have partnered with Sungrow because of its proven track record, the quality and the integrated nature of its product offering. Statera believes that battery storage will play a pivotal role in facilitating the transition to low carbon generation and will continue to work with Sungrow on coming projects in the UK in 2022,” said Tom Vernon, Managing Director of Statera Energy Limited.

Since opening its Milton Keynes branch in 2014, the local team of Sungrow UK, a subsidy of Sungrow, has realized significant traction in the United Kingdom with tens of energy storage applications. In addition, Europe’s largest energy storage project, the 100 MW/100 MWh Minety plant with Sungrow’s 1500V energy storage system solutions has been operating stably and efficiently for about one year.

Image – Sungrow Supplies Statera’s 362 MW/391 MWh Energy Storage Project in the UK

Boris Johnson meets nuclear experts and pushes for more nuclear power plants

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosted a roundtable at Downing Street yesterday with leaders from the nuclear industry to discuss how to improve domestic energy security and rapidly accelerate nuclear projects in the UK.

The Prime Minister made clear the vision for nuclear to be a major part of the UK’s future energy system as a clean, reliable and safe energy source. He set out this government’s commitment to supporting the industry to develop a thriving pipeline of future nuclear projects in the UK in a cost-effective way.

Industry representatives set out the various technologies and projects they are developing, from larger nuclear power plants to small modular reactors, capitalising on both British and international expertise.

The Prime Minister invited views on how the UK can accelerate rapid progress on securing new nuclear capacity. They discussed the benefits of scaling up investment and removing barriers facing development, agreeing to work together to help projects become operational more quickly and cheaply.

The Prime Minister and attendees also reflected on the need to build strong skills and supply chains to support the UK nuclear industry.

The roundtable comes ahead of the publication of the Government’s energy security strategy this month, with renewable energy, nuclear and domestic gas all a crucial part of achieving its aims.

After the roundtable, the Prime Minister met with apprentices from EDF Energy and saw a model of Rolls Royce’s Small Modular Reactor design.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay and Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Helen Whatley also attended the roundtable.

Organisations who attended included: Nuclear Industry Association, Aviva Investors, Balfour Beatty, Bechtel Group Incorporated, EDF Energy, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, L&G, MACE, NAMRC, Nuclear Power Jacobs, NuScale, Rolls Royce, Rothesay Life, Westinghouse Electric Company, Urenco, and USS.

New solar farm to be built at former landfill site in the West Midlands

The Environment Agency is continuing to carry out its regulation of a historic, non-hazardous landfill site in Wednesfield, where construction of a new solar farm is currently underway.

City of Wolverhampton Council, the current operator of the closed Bowmans Harbour landfill, is enabling The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust to develop the site to generate significant levels of renewable energy to power the nearby New Cross Hospital, in a step towards its goal of becoming net carbon zero by 2040.

As part of the planning process, City of Wolverhampton Council is required to manage the landfill in its closed state by retaining the existing landfill monitoring infrastructure and continuing to provide access for the Environment Agency to carry out its regulation of the site.

The Environment Agency has also highlighted to the council of the need to avoid damage to the cap of the landfill to prevent any issues going forward.

The site, which was formerly mined for coal, was operated as a landfill until it was closed and capped in 1996-1997. Since then, the Environment Agency has continued to regulate the site, ensuring monitoring and maintenance of the site is managed in accordance with the site’s environmental permit.

The solar farm, which at 11 hectares, is the size of around 22 football pitches and is due to be operational by summer this year, even though the site will not be fully complete by this time. It is estimated that the solar energy will power the hospital for three quarters of the year – around 288 days of self-generated renewable energy.

Joe Craddock, Environment Officer at the Environment Agency said:

It’s fantastic to see a former landfill being used in this way to provide a renewable energy source for the hospital.

We have taken the opportunity of working with the council to not only maintain but also improve the infrastructure of the closed landfill. We have required City of Wolverhampton Council to review and improve the leachate and gas wells on the site and make updates to the gas flare.*

We will continue to monitor and manage the site as it changes its use into a new source of renewable energy.

The improvements to the landfill infrastructure are important as they reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses being emitted from the site.

Background information

The solar farm is located approximately 1 mile to the north-east of Wolverhampton city centre and approximately 0.5 mile south of Wednesfield village centre.

The solar farm is planned to produce 6.9 megawatts-peak per annum which will be fed direct to New Cross Hospital. New Cross Hospital will be the first hospital in England to fully utilise and operate its own facility providing renewable energy.

The repository at Bowmans Harbour is the subject of an existing environmental permit issued to City of Wolverhampton Council by the Environment Agency in respect of environmental monitoring.

The Environment Agency regulates the environmental permits held by a landfill operator, including a closed landfill.  Within the environmental permits there are conditions controlling the operations that the site can carry out, which cover emission limits and the location and frequency of environmental monitoring.

The conditions of the environmental permit are designed to prevent pollution and minimise impacts to the environment and human health.  Appropriate measures are required to be taken by the holder of the environmental permit through the application of best practice.

There is a long-term monitoring contract in place with City of Wolverhampton Council to meet the conditions of the environmental permit.

Less potent greenhouse gasses are emitted if the landfill gas is burnt as opposed to being vented* so reducing the volume of gas being vented on the site will have a positive effect on the environment in terms of the greenhouse gases being emitted by the site.

  • When the gas is vented, a higher percentage of methane is released to the atmosphere which has a greater greenhouse effect. Burning the landfill gas reduces the volume of more potent greenhouse gases being released.

End of coal in sight as UK secures ambitious commitments at COP26 summit

Given this week is COP26 and we are all keen to know more about “Green Energy” we have been looking at what the plans for the future are.

The UK has secured a 190-strong coalition of countries and organisations at COP26, with countries such as Poland, Vietnam, Egypt, Chile and Morocco announcing commitments to phase out coal power.

The end of coal – the single biggest contributor to climate change – is in sight thanks to the UK securing a 190-strong coalition of countries and organisations at COP26, with countries such as Indonesia, South Korea, Poland, Vietnam, and Chile announcing clear commitments to phase out coal power.

Today’s commitments, brought together through UK-led efforts including the new ‘Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement’, encompass developed and developing countries, major coal users and climate vulnerable countries. This includes 23 countries committing for the first time to phase out and not build or invest in new coal power, including Indonesia, South Korea, Poland, Vietnam, and Chile, marking a milestone moment at COP26 in the global clean energy transition.

This statement, launched today, commits nations across the world to:

  • end all investment in new coal power generation domestically and internationally
  • rapidly scale up deployment of clean power generation
  • phase out coal power in economies in the 2030s for major economies and 2040s for the rest of the world
  • make a just transition away from coal power in a way that benefits workers and communities

This is on top of China, Japan and Korea, the 3 largest public financiers of coal, committing to end overseas finance for coal generation by the end of 2021, announced in the last year during the UK’s incoming COP26 Presidency. Agreements at the G7, G20 and OECD to end public international coal finance send a strong signal that the world economy is shifting to renewables. This could end over 40GW of coal across 20 countries, equivalent to over half of the UK’s electricity generating capacity.

Business & Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:

Today marks a milestone moment in our global efforts to tackle climate change as nations from all corners of the world unite in Glasgow to declare that coal has no part to play in our future power generation.

Spearheaded by the UK’s COP26 Presidency, today’s ambitious commitments made by our international partners demonstrate that the end of coal is in sight. The world is moving in the right direction, standing ready to seal coal’s fate and embrace the environmental and economic benefits of building a future that is powered by clean energy.

To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees, the global transition to clean power needs to progress 4 to 6 times faster than at present. With coal being the single largest contributor to climate change, phasing it out and delivering a rapid, inclusive transition to clean energy is essential if we are to keep 1.5 degrees alive.

Twenty-eight new members have today signed up to the world’s largest alliance on phasing out coal, the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) launched and co-chaired by the UK. Chile, Singapore and Durban have today joined over 150 countries, sub-nationals and businesses, including finance partners NatWest, Lloyds Banking, HSBC and Export Development Canada. This accounts for over $17 trillion assets now committed to PPCA coal phase out goals.

There has also been a 76% cut in the number of new coal plants planned globally over the last 6 years which means the cancellation of 1000GW of new coal plants since the Paris Agreement, roughly equivalent to around 10 times the UK’s total peak generating capacity.

Today’s global agreement to move away from coal to clean power has been made possible thanks to a number of other UK-convened initiatives, including:

No new coal power

The end of new coal power construction is in sight. The launch of the No New Coal Power compact by 6 countries at the UN High Level Dialogue in September, followed by the commitments in the Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement. This means that by the end of this year, all new public finance for unabated coal power plants will have stopped, with investments increasingly focused instead on accelerating the transition to clean energy sources such as wind and solar power, now cheaper than coal generation in most countries. This accelerates the growing global momentum to end new coal power, demonstrated by the 76% collapse in the global pipeline of proposed coal power plants since the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Supporting emerging economies

In addition, major emerging economies have announced plans to accelerate a just transition from coal to clean power. This includes a South Africa Just Energy Transition Partnership worth $8.5 billion, as well as Indonesia and the Philippines agreeing a ground breaking new partnership with the Asian Development Bank to support the early retirement of existing coal plants. Further financing announcements are expected today at COP26.

Supporting coal-intensive economies

Countries with significant coal power generation and mining face large social and financial challenges in the transition from coal. The UK’s COP26 Energy Transition Council (ETC) mobilises and coordinates the assistance required to enable coal intensive economies to equitably transition from coal, bringing together 20 governments and over 15 international institutions to accelerate the transition from coal to clean power as part of a green economic recovery. For example, the Energy Transition Council’s Rapid Response Facility delivers fast-acting technical, regulatory and commercial assistance to countries and has already responded to 24 requests in a range of areas, including energy efficiency in the Philippines and grid management in Egypt.

Ensuring a just transition

Today the UK government has also launched a new International Just Transition Declaration, ensuring the move away from coal high carbon industries results in a sustainable, green and fair future, and one that creates high quality new jobs and champions local social dialogue in developing and emerging economies. Coordinated by the UK government, so far, 13 countries have signed as well as the UK and EU Commission, covering a broad spectrum of the world’s donor funding, now driving towards a just transition for communities around the world.

Clean Growth, Energy and Climate Change Minster Greg Hands said:

As the host of COP26 and through committing to phasing out coal by 2024 and the UK’s global leadership has sent a clear signal across the world that clean energy is the way forward.

By continuing to drive forward clean, green innovations at home and abroad, I look forward to stepping into this new chapter, united with the rest of the world in our efforts to consign coal to the history books, as we build back greener.

FCDO Minister for Africa, Vicky Ford said:

A just and inclusive transition to clean energy is a win-win for the UK and Africa. Phasing out coal is a central objective of the UK’s COP Presidency and will support a cleaner, greener future for British people while creating hundreds of thousands of green jobs across the developing world.

This new funding will transform the support on offer for African countries transitioning to renewable energy. The Africa Regional Climate and Nature Programme will support green electricity networks across Africa, benefitting more than 4 million people, and the Transforming Energy Access platform will see 25 million more people across the developing world access clean energy.

The UK is already delivering many of the most ambitious clean power commitments among the world’s largest economies, committing to phase out coal power completely by 2024, driving forward renewable power generation with a decarbonised power system by 2035, and demonstrating that tackling climate change does not need to be at the expense of a growing economy.

Between 1990 and 2019, the UK’s economy grew by 78% while carbon emissions fell by 44%, the fastest reduction in the G7 – coal power makes up less than 2% of power generation compared to 40% almost a decade ago. These achievements follow the publication of the UK’s landmark Net Zero Strategy last month, which outlines measures to support businesses and consumers to transition to clean energy, while supporting hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs and leveraging up to £90 billion of private investment by 2030. 

Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and Co-Chair of UN-Energy, said:

Energy Day at COP 26 is an important milestone for building momentum on Sustainable Development Goal 7 and the just, equitable clean energy transitions it can support.

We are the architects of a sustainable future for all. Today I call on all governments to raise the level of ambition necessary to fill the financing gaps and to ensure an energy future that truly leaves no one behind.

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change in Canada and co-chair of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, said:

It is imperative that we phase out coal-fired electricity as a critical step to keep global temperatures from rising above 1.5ºC and prevent the most severe impacts of climate change. In four years, the Powering Past Coal Alliance has united a diverse and growing number of highly ambitious members, all committed to a clean energy transition that will make coal a relic of the past.

Whether sharing solutions or providing financial support to developing countries to help them succeed, Alliance members are driving change through this global collaboration.

Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack, said:

As one of the first countries to commit to ending coal power, the UK is leading the world in moving away from fossil fuels and it’s fantastic to see so many other countries making that commitment at COP26 in Glasgow.

Scotland has a massive part to play in the transition to clean, green energy. On offshore wind, for which Scotland has huge potential, our commitment is to quadruple capacity. Today’s news signals tremendous progress – we must continue to move forward.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said:

Before 2030 we need Just Transition plans in place in every country with decent and quality jobs at the heart. Workers and their unions are needed at the table through a genuine social dialogue process that ensures that transformative action moves our economies and societies to stabilise our climate and keep global warming under 1.5°C.

The union movement is keen to work with all the governments and institutions that sign this declaration to make this happen.

Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions and founder of Bloomberg L.P. and Bloomberg Philanthropies, said:

Success in the fight against climate change depends on ending coal-fired power – the largest driver of carbon emissions and the target of a major new initiative that Bloomberg Philanthropies expanded this week at COP26. Together with our international partners, we welcome the work of more allies dedicated to moving beyond coal and accelerating the clean energy transition we urgently need.

Minister Schulze, German Minister of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, said:

Phasing out coal is essential to reach our climate targets. In the near future, we will have left behind all fossil fuels and live in a new and sustainable energy world based on renewable energies. In order to get there, we need to actively shape the potential social impacts and support the affected regions in creating good sustainable new jobs. This means ensuring a just and inclusive transition together with all relevant stakeholders. Germany is willing to share its experiences with changing economic patterns and is thus supporting the Coal to Clean Statement and the Just Transition Declaration. Germany is underlining its commitment to further support the pathway towards a safe, sustainable and climate friendly energy future globally.

The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs said:

Striving to achieve universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all and in line with the objectives of the Paris agreement is a priority for France. In 2020, the French Development Agency Group committed 1.5 billion euros in the energy sectors to support developing countries for energy transition planning, access to electricity, energy efficiency and renewable energies. The partnership announced between South Africa, France, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union is a testament that France stands ready to support a just transition which is socially inclusive and creates local economic opportunities.